Getting Tweens to Help with Household Chores

House cleaning
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If you live with a tween and you're tackling all of the household chores by yourself, it's time for a family adjustment. Tweens are able enough and old enough to take on a few household chores, and doing so teaches them skills they need to know.

Chores teach tweens independence and discipline and can contribute to a child's self-esteem, and sense of accomplishment. They're also a great way to prepare your child to take care of himself when you're not around, such as when he's at summer camp or staying with friends or relatives for an extended period of time.

Before you hand over any responsibility to your child, it's necessary that you conduct a dry run first. Show him how the household chore should be tackled, and ask him if he has any questions. For example, if you're asking your tween to load the dishwasher, spend a few minutes showing him how to load it properly. Explain why plastic containers might be better off on the top rack rather than the bottom where they might melt. Remember that your tween has very little life experience, and is depending on you to show him what you know. Once you've explained his job, give your child a little wiggle room to tackle it on his own and in his own way.

If your child becomes frustrated or angry because he's struggling with his chore, you might consider finding another task for him, one that's easier for him to complete.

There are a number of household chores that are suitable for just about any tween, including:

  • Loading the dishwasher
  • Sorting laundry by color
  • Packing his own lunch
  • Making his own snack
  • Feeding the family pet
  • Watching younger siblings for short periods of time
  • Vacuuming the car
  • Weeding the garden
  • Planting flowers and vegetables
  • Sweeping the front porch or garage
  • Folding clean laundry and placing the items in the appropriate drawers
  • Setting and clearing the dinner table
  • Taking the trash cans (or recycling bins) out to the curb and bringing them back when empty

Older tweens can also:

  • Wipe down bathroom sinks and toilets with disinfectant wipes (gloves are recommended)
  • Prepare a salad or a simple dinner
  • Clean out the refrigerator
  • Organize closets and cabinets
  • Write the family grocery list
  • Mow the lawn

Every tween should have at least one daily household chore, such as setting the table or making his bed, as well as a weekly chore that takes more time, such as folding laundry or writing the family grocery list. As your child ages and matures, you can add to his list of responsibilities, according to your family needs and his school schedule.

Getting the Household Chores Done

Once you've assigned a chore to your child, the next step is making sure it's actually completed. Consistency and follow through are key to getting your tween in the habit of completing his chores every day. To get him in the habit, be sure you stay on top of his progress and offer gentle reminders every now and then.

Tweens can also benefit from a daily chore chart or a chore contract, which will help them track their chores and make it clear what the consequences of not doing them might be. Keep the chart in a highly visible area where your tween will see it, such as on the refrigerator or at your family's computer desk station.

In addition, you might consider offering a basic reward system to encourage him to keep his chores up-to-date. Refrain from offering glamorous or expensive prizes, just keep it simple. For example, you could say that for each week his chores are completed on time, he'll earn an additional half-hour of television or computer time. Or, you could offer a special treat at his favorite fast-food restaurant, a sleepover, or time alone with you so you can enjoy an activity together.

Parents might also consider tying chores to an allowance. If you decide to do that, make sure that you tie only the bigger chores to his allowance, and make it clear that his everyday chores are expected to be completed without reward. That way, he'll understand that sometimes you chip in just because it's necessary, not because there's a reward at the end waiting for him.

Another strategy to encourage your child to complete his chores is to make it clear that all chores must be done before he participates in his favorite activity. For example, you could say that he can't play with his friends on Saturday until he's finished his chores, or the television stays off until all chores are completed. Find out what motivates your tween and stick to it.

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